A press statement by the United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union at April 21st 2020 suggesting a dereliction of duty of care on the part of contractor JPC by Samsic for staff employed at its Adelphi Building contract in London has been refuted in full by the company.
Commenting on the UVW statement in a same-day response, JPC by Samsic managing director John Conry said:
“It’s disappointing to read accusation presented as fact by the UVW, particularly when its claims are groundless.
“The Union suggests our company ‘knowingly put staff health in danger’, ‘misled’ them over ‘confirmed cases of COVID-19 and had them unknowingly disinfect infected areas’ and ‘lied’ to them about which floors were infected with ‘floors eight and nine completely shut off’.
“The fact is that there has to date been only one reported and confirmed case of Covid-19 within the building. The moment we were informed, we undertook a deep clean of all areas using specialist infection control chemicals. Participating team members were issued with the relevant RAMS, PPE, and training on the clean, agreed its undertaking, and were rewarded with an enhanced rate of pay for so doing. Contrary to the UVW claim, the two floors mentioned remain as they were: open and accessible to the occupiers for their use.
“The UVW claims JPC staff not being provided with adequate personal protective equipment, specifically face masks and hand sanitiser. Yet only a week ago, thirty-eight masks for the building’s eight cleaners were recorded as provided to site, which also housed almost three thousand disposable and reusable gloves and over forty 100ml bottles of hand sanitiser – and not 50ml as claimed by the Union.
“Furthermore, there are numerous locations on each floor of the building with hot water and 265 litres antibacterial soap available, ensuring our team members can continue to wash hands in line with the Government’s guidelines.
“The UVW statement suggested that our staff were being forced to attend work.
“The fact is that many offices not directed by the Government to close are still operational during this very challenging time. The cleaning service our teams provide is crucial to ensuring the health and safety of workers who have not been furloughed.
“In order to ensure the safest and fairest possible environment for our workers, to this point we have reduced every worker’s shift pattern to fifty per cent. This means that every single one of our cleaners has been receiving full pay for working half of their contracted hours. This has ensured that they are able to follow social distancing rules whilst carrying out their duties, reducing risk for all on site, with no team member suffering any financial detriment.
“In order to retain the cleaning contract for this building and thus ensure workers have jobs to return to after lockdown, we are obliged to fulfil our legal obligation to our client.
“The alternative would be for a smaller team of cleaners to be selected to continue working all of their hours, increasing their risk, while the rest of their colleagues were furloughed. We are not in the business of forcing our colleagues.
“The UVW claims it has ‘managed to force JPC to backdate these workers pay and to pay them the London Living Wage’.
“This is factually inaccurate. It was always our intention to lift the wage rate to that of the LLW in line with its April cut-off date and the six-month implementation period following the last Government announcement of October 2019.
“In March of this year, we reached agreement with our client at Adelphi Building that a supplement to our budget would be made available, back-dated to include the first quarter of this year, to cover this outlay.
“One of two anonymous workers quoted in the Union’s statement claimed that JPC refused to pay colleagues at Adelphi Building who have had to self-isolate.
“To date, we have not received a single shielding letter or official notification from the NHS of any specific individual working onsite being vulnerable and requiring immediate protection and isolation.
“The fact is that any JPC by Samsic employee that provides the company with this documentation, in line with Government guidelines, will be immediately put on furlough.
“The UVW statement claims that our company ‘sent engineers home but not cleaners’.
“This is, again, factually incorrect. JPC by Samsic does not provide any engineering services on this site not least as the company does not directly employ any engineers.
“To summarise, the UVW would appear to have seen fit to categorise in this statement this company as neglectful of the health and well-being of its colleagues at Adelphi Building. Had the union shared this statement with us, I feel we would have been better placed to correct its factual inaccuracies.
“Ultimately, we regard the claims made in the statement as not only baseless but detrimental to the reputation of an established service provider to some of the capital’s best known work environments and one that prides itself on its care and regard for its employees and the users of the buildings it cleans.”
Edit: The statement was edited on 24/04/20 to add specific detail around the briefing that staff members received when participating in deep cleaning.